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The James City County Board of Supervisors is asking state Sen. Tommy Norment to vote against a bill that would limit the county’s ability to regulate homeowners who rent out rooms to tourists.
The Limited Residential Lodging Act is proposed as Senate Bill 416 and House Bill 812. The legislation would amend the Code of Virginia so “any dwelling unit may be used for limited residential lodging.”
Provisions of the amendment would supersede local laws, including zoning ordinances, that regulate limited residential lodging or vacation rentals, which are commonly advertised through websites like Airbnb.
In a letter to Norment on behalf of the board, Chairman Michael Hipple (Powhatan) wrote the legislation is of “grave concern” to the county.
He wrote residents have reported an “increased use of on-street parking, disregard for the noise generated by parties, trash and accelerated deterioration of the grounds” at homes in Kingsmill, Windsor Forest and Stonehouse that were illegally rented out in 2008.
“In our experience, the very limited provisions in the bills to regulate these quasi-commercial uses falls far short of what is normally expected by citizens when the County approves home occupations in existing neighborhoods,” Hipple wrote. “Approval of these bills will short-circuit the citizens’ ability to thoughtfully consider such uses and to request that the County impose conditions to ameliorate the particular impacts caused by them.”
Hipple argued the proposed enforcement of tax collection is “inadequate” and taxes do not appear to be equitable between “those engaged in Limited Residential Lodging and those offering traditional commercial lodging,” including hotels.
“This inequity will … put existing County businesses at a disadvantage, which is particularly burdensome when they are often the ones who are spending marketing money to attract visitors to our area,” Hipple wrote.
County Zoning Administrator Jason Purse said since 2014 there has been a “marked increase” in complaints about homes suspected to be illegally operating as vacation rentals.
Purse said the zoning office investigated 10 potential violations in 2015. He said most of the complaints were driven by observations on Airbnb and social sharing websites.
Purse said residents can operate their homes as vacation rental properties if the use is allowed in the home’s zoning area and if the homeowner receives a special use permit for the enterprise.
A homeowner who wants to rent out up to three rooms while living in the residence, comparable to operating a bed & breakfast, would seek permission for a “rental of rooms” use, while a homeowner who wishes to rent out up to five rooms without living in the dwelling himself would seek a “tourist home” use.
Only a handful of homeowners have gone through this process in the past 10 years and most withdrew their applications, according to the county’s CaseTrak system. A special use permit application to operate a tourist home on Brick Bat Road was filed late last month and is currently under review.
Norment (R-Dist. 3) is co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and will be among the senators reviewing the bill in committee.
The House bill passed 75 to 22 on Feb. 4 with Del. Monty Mason (D-Dist. 93) voting “yea” and Del. Brenda Pogge (R-Dist. 96) voting “nay.”